The New York State Racing and Wagering Board cleared a licensing issue allowing 2007 Horse of the Year Curlin to return to New York to compete in Saturday’s 49th running of the Grade 1, $500,000 Man o’War Stakes for three-year-olds and up at 11 furlongs on the turf. Winner of nine of 12 career starts, including his last five in a row, the Smart Strike colt is using the Man o’War en route to possibly competing in the Prix De L’arc De Triomphe at Longschamps Racecourse in Paris on Sunday, October 5.
“We are excited to host Curlin in his turf debut on Saturday in the Man o’War Stakes at Belmont Park, subject to receipt by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board of the necessary application from the court appointed interim receiver, ” said NYRA President and CEO Charles Hayward. “We appreciate the efforts and diligence of Chairman Dan Hogan and the New York State Racing and Wagering Board in working to resolve the licensing issues surrounding Curlin’s minority ownership to allow our fans to witness this historic event.
“It’s a rare occurrence for a Breeders’ Cup Classic champion to make the transition to turf and we are looking forward to watching Curlin in his inaugural effort on grass. We thank Curlin’s majority owner, Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stable, and trainer Steve Asmussen for bringing Curlin to New York and for their foresight and expertise in managing this outstanding champion.”
While paperwork was being cleared for Curlin, who will arrive at Belmont Park on Thursday, one of his chief rivals in the Man o’War was embarking on a trans-Atlantic journey.
J. Paul Reddam’s Irish-bred Red Rocks, third in the Breeders’ Cup Turf at Monmouth Park last October and Group winner in the United Kingdom, was en route to Belmont Park on Tuesday. He is expected to enter quarantine at Aqueduct on Wednesday at approximately 12:30 p.m.
Also expected for what is turning out to be a showcase of stars is Bushwood Stable’s Better Talk Now. The nine-year-old gelding, winner of the Man o’War in 2005 as a six-year-old, will attempt to become the oldest horse to win this important race. Yankees Affair (1989), Val’s Prince (1997) and two-time Man o’War winner With Anticipation (2002) all won this race as 7-year-olds.
The Man o’War was originally a staple of Belmont Park’s Fall Championship Meet, but was moved to the spring meet this year.
“Moving the Man o’ War to the spring gave better spacing for our turf races,” said Paul J. Campo, NYRA racing secretary and handicapper. “In previous years, we had three races in a seven-week span: the Sword Dancer at Saratoga, and the Man o’ War and Turf Classic at Belmont Park. We found that schedule didn’t really work. One of the races was always getting hurt, and usually, that was the middle one.”
Now, it turns out that the Man o’War will be one of the stronger races of the meet.